Thursday, June 24, 2010

Toronto, days before the G20 Summit

Police clump on the streets like a flighty flock of birds,
numerous and easily startled by gusts of wind
and forgotten briefcases on subway platforms.

Trains wait at their stations like planes on a runway
while the passengers spill out into the streets
to snap up cabs like falling coins.

Office buildings tremor in fear – of what? We speculate:
Car bombs? God’s wrath? Bad economic policies?
Or just awe as the living earth turns in its sleep?

The next morning, only zealous protesters and Bay Street types
walk the streets. Unlikely pairs, they ride in subway cars
like the ribs of a picked-clean roast.

For the non-Canadians: Bay Street is Canada's Wall Street.

Sorry for the lack of posting; this has been a crazy week, with or without the G20.

This poem was written in response to Monday's prompt on Big Tent Poetry.

Photo by Tomasz Bugajski, taken from BlogTO

        What are your thoughts on the G20 Summit? If you live/work in Toronto, how has the Summit affected you so far?


Dorkmaster Flek said...

Well you already know how I feel, but to quote a T-shirt I saw on a women yesterday, "Fuck the G20". To be specific, fuck the G20 in Toronto. I have no problem with world leaders getting together to discuss policies and whatnot, especially with the whole global recession thing and figuring out how to deal with it. But don't come into the downtown core of the biggest city in the country and disrupt millions of people's daily lives!

Fuck Harper. What the hell was he thinking hosting both the G8 and the G20, and putting the bigger of the two in downtown Toronto? And have you seen any of the coverage of it? They invited countries that aren't even part of the G20, which again is fine in theory especially with rising economic powers like India, China, and Brazil, but everybody is bringing massive delegations with way too many people. They've got aids, their own security personal in addition to those at the site, fucking chefs to cook their own food (I am not kidding). The security is just insane; don't try to go anywhere near the area. The protesters are all over the place, which of course is bound to happen with these political summits. Why in the name of high holy fuck would you bring this into a crowded city?! And don't give me any of that "showing off Canada to the world" bullshit. All you see if you're visiting in town or watching news reports are security personal decked out in riot gear clashing with protesters. Yeah, this is a great face to put on for the world... Take them to the middle of fucking nowhere and talk there! Or better yet, use the fucking Internet and do it remotely!

To paraphrase a recent Penny Arcade comic, God damnit, Harper. God damnit.

Anonymous said...

a great way to write about the summit is to write about the city before the summit. brilliant!

and i love "cabs like falling coins" ...

shannon teresa said...

Andrew is friggin great! My dad also wondered if they have never heard of Skype

Tumblewords: said...

Terrific work. It sings with anxiety, anger and angst. What will come from this? I remember WTO meetings which caused undue 'stuff' in smaller places than Toronto.

Cynthia Short said...

"Like the ribs of a picked clean roast" - I love that visual!
(I don't know why they bother having those summits, nothing good every get accomplished...)

Andrew said...

In response to Dorkmaster Flek: I am actually in support of the G20 in Toronto. Hopefully I'll be able to muster the strength to explain why in a few days, but the gist of my reasoning goes thus:

What kind of message does it send when the leaders of the world and their respective governments appear afraid to convene in a city supposedly internationally renowned for its diversity and progressive attitude? If the G20 were held in some remote place hidden away from the world, you wouldn't get the sense that our governments are working for our wellbeing. Instead, you'd get the sense that the world is about to end and our leaders are either too afraid or unwilling to do anything about it. It's of crucial significance for the G20 to be held in public, civic forum.

(Okay, so maybe I won't write more about this in a few days. That was really all I had to say on the subject, unless I learn something more from the event's aftermath.)

Mary said...

I'm not entirely sure why they decided to do it right in downtown Toronto. Maybe it wasn't the greatest idea... Previous hosts of the G20 haven't beaten around the bush about what a shit show it can become, and indeed a shit show it was.

One thing I do have to say is a lot of people are like "ohhh poor protestors, they got detained, they're just being peaceful, yadda yadda, boo hoo, those police are so rotten". I honestly don't care. Most of even the peaceful protestors don't even know exactly what they're protesting, and if they are protesting they don't have a solution to even bring to the leaders' table to fix the problems. Everyone should have just stayed out of the zone on the weekend. If you ventured down there, you should have been prepared for what was coming. I think the police did a good job and I don't care who got detained, you should've stayed home. If your friend has a crackhouse, and you happen to be in said crackhouse when it gets raided by the police, that's your own damn fault. Once those asshole black bloc f*cks turned violent, the "peaceful protestors" should have gotten the hell out of there instead of trying to be all high and mighty on their protest horse. "Hey man, I'm fighting for the cause man, Fuck the police man". Ugh shut up.

Dorkmaster Flek said...

Andrew, there is something wrong. We spent $1.1 billion on security and they still couldn't stop the rioting and vandalism. The only option left in that regard is escalation, a la the Cold War, and we know how well that works. They focused so much on security that they scared away all the normal citizens and shopkeepers, and that is what would have help prevent all this. Instead, they turned the city into a ghost town and the rioters had a field day. This is a bad idea no matter how you slice it. Image be damned; there is no justification for holding the summit in the place and in the way that they did.

Protesters are going to congregate on these international summits no matter where they are held. I know this looks insane, but if you look at other international summits, including previous G20s, you'll see that this is actually par for the course. Hell, in the 2009 London summit, somebody actually died from internal bleeding after he was assaulted by police. Maybe the world is ending, in a manner of speaking. Clearly there is a problem going on if international gatherings provoke this kind of public response on a consistent basis.

The bottom line is that nobody wants their city taken over by bureaucrats and their ridiculous entourages. The amount of trouble you have to go through to keep them safe just isn't worth it. What this says about what they are worth is left as an exercise for the reader.

Mary said...

Andrew (DorkMaster), you are also very correct. The whole ghost town thing really paved the way for it to be a shit show.

I think the G20/8 stuff needs to be done in some remote location... There's got to be some better way to do this. Stay away from big cities.

P.S. I still think protesting - while it is a great right of our beautiful free country - does absolutely nothing except piss people off and make the protestors look like douchebags. It's sad but true. I don't think it accomplishes anything, and I don't see how they haven't figured this out yet. But that's just my opinion.

Adelaide said...

Regardless of the effectiveness of protesting, it's a key part of civil participation; it's a civil right. I'd be careful about voluntarily giving up any civil rights, because that's a slippery slope.

Personally, I like to focus my efforts in smaller political spheres, because I feel like I'm more likely to have some influence. So I didn't protest the G20, but I will be writing letters in regard to the more local impacts of the summit -- especially a strongly-worded letter to McGuinty saying why it's unacceptable to pass laws outside of the legislature and not publicize them (regardless of what they are for).

Dorkmaster Flek said...

Mary, I'd be very careful what you wish for, if I were you. The rights and freedoms we enjoy today were won because of (often violent) protests. Take away the right to protest, and you take away one of the only tools that we, the people, actually have against corrupt governments. That's a very slippery slope. And if the government gets too corrupt, well, sometimes the only option left is violent revolution. I'm not saying we're actually near that point yet, but history tends to repeat itself. As Thomas Jefferson said, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

Andrew said...

The security was intended to protect the leaders, not necessarily the city. In that sense, job well done. From a strategic perspective, most of the vandalism was done with the intent of drawing the police away from their posts and opening up channels for more direct and closer confrontations. I'd rather the police do the job for which they were hired than bugger off so they can help a shopkeeper sweep up some broken glass his insurance would cover anyway.

I also don't buy that all the normal citizens were scared away. Okay, so U of T was shut down, banks and upper class shopping centres boarded up windows, and a cop car blew up right in front of the place I get my haircuts, but financial centres in big cities are always ghost towns on the weekend. Bay Street would've been mostly dead anyway. Proceeding "business as usual " would only be possible on a day where usual business happens, i.e, a weekday. Have the G20 on a Wednesday afternoon in the city and typical civic activity would discourage civil disobedience. You wouldn't even need $1.1B in security at that point; rent-a-cops could probably keep things under control on their own.

I still maintain that G20/8 summits need to be held in cities. You separate the leaders from the led, and all sorts of unnecessary suspicions and paranoias will crop up. Ideally, it should be a peaceful confluence of international governments and their respective peoples. Toronto's wasn't exactly that, but I still think the efforts of the security were laudable.

And yes, I do agree that a little (err, "lot") less money could've been spent on it in the end.

Dorkmaster Flek said...

I'm sorry, but that is bullshit. The leaders are still completely removed from the led. They're cooped up inside the convention centre with a veritable army between them and the "normal" people. They're trying to put on this facade of Toronto welcoming this summit with open arms when the normal citizens wanted nothing to do with it. You're speaking as if holding the summit in the convention centre makes it any less transparent and makes people feel closer to their leaders. This had the exact opposite effect; it showed how incredibly out of touch these people are about what the actual effects of hosting one of these gatherings is. Nobody is allowed to get anywhere near the place; it's effectively a fortress. If you're worried about suspicious and paranoia building, it's a little late for that.

This summit was a joke. It accomplished absolutely nothing of value that couldn't have been done more efficiently in another way, and it ended up costing us hundreds of millions of dollars. These summits need to go, and badly. This entire thing was nothing more than a fucking photo op.

Oh, and as for the broken glass that insurance is going to pay for, who do you think is most likely going to end up reimbursing businesses for that? And all so a bunch of bureaucrats can feel warm and fuzzy inside. And the biggest load of shit coming out of this so far? We discussed mostly the economy and pledged to get the countries to cut their deficits in half by 2013...right after we just spent over $1.1 billion on the security for this shitstorm. Fuck you, Harper.